There have been a number of Doctor Who plays over the years, ranging from the Dalekmania
inspired "Curse of the Daleks" to the song and sci-fi spectacular "The Ultimate
Adventure"/I>. However, one play remains all but forgotten - Richard Franklin's "Recall
The concept for the play originated at a convention. Franklin, who of course played Captain
Mike Yates during the UNIT era, met up with some of his old co-stars and came up with
the idea for a play in which the UNIT team are recalled to duty. This was not Franklin's
first play - an earlier work had rejoiced in the title "Shakespeare was a Hunchback".
"Recall UNIT" finally came to the stage in the Summer of 1984 as part of the Edinburgh
Festival when I was lucky enough to attend.
Having gained the backing of his UNIT co-stars, Nicholas Courtney and John Levene,
it was somewhat disappointing that Courtney ultimately proved unavailable. A hastily
written replacement, Major Molesworth, was created to take his place and Courtney
provided a recorded message. Jon Pertwee was also originally intended to make
a guest appearance at one performance, although instead John Scott Martin was on hand
to play the Supreme Dalek.
The plot of the story was somewhat complex; it started in a theatre that had been
rented by a mysterious Swedish woman called Miss Bergbo, ostensibly to hold auditions
for a show to be taken to a conference of politicians in the Falklands. Auditioning
here were Franklin, Levene and the Courtney character, who gradually take on their
roles of Yates, Benton and the Brigadier. It soon becomes clear that dirty deeds are
afoot, planned by the Master (off-stage), the Supreme Dalek and a race of aliens
called the Dragoids, who all bore an uncanny resemblance to Margaret Thatcher. In
order to foil these plans, the trio take a TARDIS trip to the Falklands where they
become involved in a pantomime, leading to Franklin and Levene becoming a pair
of Ugly Sisters.
The play had a heavy comedy element and featured a number of musical items,
including Franklin's now infamous rendition of "Daddy Wouldn't Buy Me a Bow-Wow".
Apart from Franklin and Levene, the cast were relative unknowns, even to Doctor Who fans.
Lena Lindewall, who was really Swedish, played Miss Bergbo, and an Edinburgh
Youth Theatre actor called Graham Snith appeared as Alistair, her star-struck stage
manager. Also appearing was a mime artist called Paul Holness and the muscular
Glynn Dack, a singer-cum-Elvis impersonator. Worthy of special mention was Richard
Kettles, who had the difficult task of replacing Nick Courtney. Other characters were
played by members of the DWAS Edinburgh and Lothian local group, who also got
to double up as Dragoids.
The play was subtitled "The Great T-Bag Mystery", something which has often puzzled
those who did not see it. The reason for this was revealed at the very end
of the play when the Prime Minister has disappeared, only to be found in a teapot
after a close encounter with a Tissue Compression Eliminator...
The play ran from 20th to 25th August 1984 at the Moray House Theatre, one of 840
plays in the Fringe Festival. As a result, many performances were poorly attended,
but this allowed Franklin and Levene to meet with fans afterwards.
After the play closed there was talk of moving it to London with involvement from
Courtney, Pertwee and even Katy Manning. Franklin was also looking into
the possibilities of writing a book based on the play, or even a video. However,
these were not to be and "Recall UNIT" is destined to remain a virtually
forgotten contribution to the story of Doctor Who.
RECALL UNIT or The Great T-Bag Mystery
20th to 25th August 1984, The Moray House Theatre, Edinburgh.
Written and directed by: Richard Franklin
Designed by: James Helps
Script advice by: George A Cairns
Lighting designed by: Christopher Corner
Costumes by: Jennifer
Technical ASM by: Stephen Charles
Cast in order of appearance: Graham Smith (Alistair), Lena Lindewall
(Miss Bergbo), Paul Holness (Silent Stephen), Richard Franklin
(Captain Mike Yates), David Roylance (Hamish), Liam Rudden (Jimmy),
Kevin Philpotts (Tim), Glynn Dack (Stallion), John Levene (Sergeant
Benton), Richard Kettles (Major Molesworth) with Nicholas Courtney (Voice
of the Brigadier) and John Scott Martin (The Supreme Dalek - 24th August
Originally published in Think Tank issue 16 (December 1990).